BWC Update from Force Science Institute

The following comes courtesy of the Force Science Institute.  Seems like good advice. 

Building articulation while the camera rolls

When it comes to body cams and dash cams, don’t rely on the video alone to tell your side of the story. Your verbal narration as the action unfolds can be a critical component of what the device records, advises Dep. Chief William Mazur of the Atlantic City (NJ) PD.

Mazur is an instructor with the Force Science course on Body Cameras & Other Recordings in Law Enforcement. He spoke with Force Science News recently after a presentation to the class at the Force Science Research & Training Center in Chicago.

Where it’s practical to do so, supplying a running commentary on your perceptions and actions while the camera is on can help maximize the benefit of that equipment during the contact, Mazur explains.

“This can be especially important in search-and-seizure and use-of-force situations,” he says. “By narrating what you’re experiencing and what’s motivating your actions, you can provide a strong foundation for reasonable suspicion and probable cause.

“Officers usually articulate this information after the incident, when they’re writing their report. But if you articulate critical details as you go along–what you’re seeing and feeling, what you’re thinking–and then back it up with your report, the case becomes more of a slam dunk.”

“ARTICULATING YOUR MINDSET.” Typically, officers may build their PC silently, mentally noting that “something’s wrong here” from such things as the distinctive smell of burnt marijuana on a vehicle stop, evasive or inconsistent answers during a field interview, pre-attack cues in a confrontation with a hostile subject, resistive tension in a potentially combative arrestee, and so on. Mazur suggests stating aloud (and thus contemporaneously recording) the important indicators you’re aware of; “articulating your mindset,” he terms it, so your actions are better understood.

His department has been advocating this in training for about 18 months, he says. Most officers who were skeptical in the beginning have become enthusiastic converts.

“It takes practice to retrain your brain to automatically and comfortably narrate,” Mazur says. And it’s important to stay flexible. “There may be times when you don’t want a subject to hear what you’re thinking or seeing. Then you may be able to go to your patrol car or step out of earshot to record what’s in your mind.

“You don’t have to speak long paragraphs or use perfect grammar. Just a few words–even one word (‘Gun!’)–can be helpful.

“Sometimes the camera doesn’t capture everything, and the voice articulation may cover what’s missing in the video. On the other hand, there may be gaps, distortions, or confused chronology in an officer’s memory after a highly stressful incident and contemporaneous narration may straighten out those lapses.”

#NOPD Disciplinary Procedures and Your #FOP Legal Defense

Recently, I had my first run in with the new NOPD disciplinary policies.  I want to repeat the advice I commonly give to FOP members:  CALL YOUR FOP ATTORNEY FOR ANY DISCIPLINARY INVESTIGATION WHETHER A WITNESS OR ACCUSED.

On May 15, 2016, several new “chapters” were placed in effect by NOPD.  The new policies caused changes to both the disciplinary procedure and the penalty matrix.  See my prior article about the changes here.

The new penalty matrix assigns a letter, A-G, to each of the rules —  A offenses are the least severe and G offenses are the most severe.  Professionalism (R.3P.1) is an A offense – Letter of Reprimand territory.  Honesty and Truthfhlness (R2.P.3) is a G offense – mandatory dismissal.

There are a couple of confusing points to make note of right off the bat.

Rule 4, Paragraph 2, Instructions from an Authoritative Source, was always the go-to rule for any violation of an NOPD policy.   Many people were unaware that Rule 4, Paragraph 4(c)(6) is also Instructions from an Authoritative Source.  One had a penalty range of Letter of Reprimand to 3-day suspension and one had a penalty range of Letter of Reprimand to 5-day suspension.  To make things as confusing as possible, several things have happened with Instructions from an Authoritative Source.

First, in the previous iteration of the penalty matrix, R.4P.4(b) was Supervisory Responsibility and R.4P.4(c) was Enumerated Offenses.  For some unknown reason, the new policy switched paragraphs b and c.  So, now R.4P.4(b) is Enumerated Offenses and R.4P.4(c) is Supervisory Responsibility.

Further, R.4P.2, Instructions from an Authoritative Source is now a “C” offense on the penalty matrix (2-10 days).  R.4P.4(b)(6) Instructions from an Authoritative Source is now a “B” offense (Letter of Reprimand-2 days).  The thought process is that the R.4P.2 Instructions is more akin to intentional insubordination as opposed to R.4P.4(b)(6) Instructions which is a negligent or unintentional violation of a rule or policy.  Of course, as mentioned above, it is going to take some time to settle into the new interpretation of these rules.

Confusing?  That is why no officer should be without the representation provided by their FOP attorney.  Pick up the phone and call, no matter how minor the case appears to be.